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Feigning Healthiness

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Yeah, let's see how well that turns out for you.

Most would agree that being sick sucks, but it has one great benefit: being able to snuggle into bed for a long catnap. But what's that? You have a huge deadline coming up and the clock is ticking? That really cute celeb you adore is in town? You have a doctor's appointment but you're Afraid of Doctors and/or needles? People want you to take Foul Medicine? Why, this is no time to be lying in bed! It's time to start Feigning Healthiness.

Feigning Healthiness is when a character is sick but pretends to be well. This means covering up any iota of a symptom through any means necessary. Make-up, blaming other things, sometimes Blatant Lies; anything to hide that cold. This can also apply to injuries, which may mean a character has to hide limping.

This typically occurs during a Sick Episode (including Plague Episodes and Chickenpox Episodes). Often times, this ends with the sick person being exposed (sometimes right after they insist they are fine) and An Aesop about taking care of yourself when you're sick and/or honesty.

Can often be a form of Obviously Not Fine.

Compare Working Through the Cold, Definitely Just a Cold, and I Can Still Fight! which remove the "pretending" part of the act (the character admits to being somewhat ill, but not badly enough that they need to stop and rest). If the character is hiding a disability rather than a temporary illness/injury, then they are Hiding the Handicap. If the illness in question is terminal, see Secretly Dying. Contrast Playing Sick (where a well character pretends to be sick to get out of doing something), Prank Injuries (where a well character pretends to be injured), and Wounded Gazelle Gambit (where someone pretends to be ill/injured to manipulate others).

Truth in Television for workers without sick days and employees who cannot afford to take days off, who pretend to be healthy so they don't miss a shift. As well, people in high-pressure industries or sectors (law firm, software developer, pop star) may face intense pressure to feign healthiness and come to work, even if they feel sick.


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    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 
  • Discussed in the Futurama comic "A Cure for the Common Clod"— Fry has an alien disease similar to a cold, but his friends wonder if he's Playing Sick. Zoidberg then notes that usually, his patients pretend not to be sick.
  • Wonder Woman: Black and Gold: When Cathy Perkins reunites with Diana she's dying of cancer, but acting like she's fine. She was at the time using magic to give herself more time, but this did not heal her and merely slowed the spread of the disease.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot: Jason attempts to fake being well in order to go to school and at the very least take a math test despite clearly being sick. The teacher doesn't buy it and tells him to go home.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Junior Officers chapter "The Swell Shark", Shellington has a stomach flu and pretends to be well to avoid missing work. This backfires horribly, as he ends up humiliating himself by puking in the back of the GUP-A.
  • In the Encanto fanfic Reflections in a Cloudy Sky, Camilo denies being sick when questioned about him not eating at breakfast, since he doesn't want Pepa or Alma to worry about him. However, they find out anyway after Camilo suffers Power Incontinence via an Involuntary Shapeshifting seizure.
  • In Rainbow Dash's chapter of the Triptych Continuum story Sick Little Ponies (and One Dragon), Rainbow wakes up sick with Manière's, which causes three days of vertigo and movement (slow) is only possible if the patient is focused and not operating on instinct. At first she is in denial until she sees the pink tinge to her eyes. The problem? She got sick the day of the Wonderbolts Academy practical exam entrance trials. The next trials are in fourteen moons, during which any number of potentially deadly missions can happen. Desperate, she seeks last-minute cures from Fluttershy, Twilight, and Zecora, who can't and won't help Rainbow for her own safety's sake, though Zecora gives her a potion to mask the eye problem. Rainbow goes through her trial routine anyway by sticking to basics, and somehow manages a move nopony's seen in a LONG time while trying to impress the judges, one of which already knows how good she normally is (Spitfire). Spitfire calls her out on her behavior and has her take a blood test to prove she wasn't using field-boosting drugs before and got a bad batch this time. When the results come back negative, Spitfire says she'll be back in four days when Rainbow's better for a redo. We don't get to see the redo, but Rainbow gets her acceptance letter at the end.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Gattaca: Since the protagonist has a heart condition that precludes him from being an astronaut, he takes on a healthy man's identity to pretend to be well. This is most apparent when he is subjected to a treadmill stress test; he takes measures to fool the monitoring equipment and pass the test, but collapses in agony as soon as he is out of view of the testers.
  • Schindler's List: During the annual health inspection, the prisoners of the Plaszow concentration camp are separated into healthy workers and sick workers, with the latter inevitably destined for "special treatment". Mind you, every prisoner is a slave laborer working ungodly hours on starvation rations, which is intentional. Several of the women draw some of their own blood to improve their complexion and appear healthier to the inspectors.

  • Big Nate: In "Big Nate Strikes Again", Randy stomps on Nate's foot, leaving him unable to join the fleeceball game. To take Gina's place in the game, Nate limps over and claims that his foot doesn't hurt anymore while he's yelping and groaning in pain. Coach Calhoun is not convinced, and he just sends Nate right back to the bleachers to sit down.
  • The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side: Heather Badcock once caught German measles and was told to stay at home, but went out to a party to meet her favorite actress Marina Gregg anyway. Unbeknownst to her, Marina was pregnant, caught German measles from Heather, and the child was born with severe birth defects. Years later, they meet again, with Heather proudly recalling the time she proved no sickness would prevent her from meeting her idol, which quickly gets her murdered by Marina. This was possibly based on a similar incident that happened in real life to Gene Tierney (though without the murder).
  • Two from Warrior Cats: A Vision of Shadows:
    • Purdy's demise is brought on by his pretending to be fine when he is really ill and starving.
    • In River of Fire, Briarlight gets sick, but pretends that she's healthy because she doesn't want to be a bother to the medicine cats. She didn't think it was a big deal, but eventually it got to the point that she couldn't hide it, and by then it was too late for the medicine cats to save her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: In "The Road Trip", Rosa, the resident badass, gets a bad cold but refuses to admit it because of her stubbornness and because she has a perp to process. Instead, she chugs a bottle of cold medicine (the non-drowsy kind) and becomes uncharacteristically hyperactive. Terry and Gina see straight through this and take care of her and process her perp for her whilst she sleeps (though Gina did lock her in a broom closet to sleep out of care and disgust).
  • Choujin Sentai Jetman: In the epilogue, Gai (aka Black Condor) is on his way to the wedding of his friends and teammates Ryu and Kaori. On the way, he witnesses a woman being mugged and intervenes, but by sheer bad luck is stabbed by the mugger. Realising the wound is fatal, he does his best to keep it hidden as he arrives at the wedding, eventually succumbing as the wedding comes to an end.
  • Frasier: In the episode "Frasier Crane's Day Off", he comes down with a cold but refuses to not go to work as he is worried Gil Chesterton will steal his radio show's timeslot if he is not there. The next day, Frasier is determined to go to work, makes a big speech to Martin and Daphne about his health, and proudly walks out the door... only to ring the doorbell just seconds later.
    Frasier: [pathetically] ...I'm sick!
  • In the Friends episode "The One With Rachel's Sister", the B-plot is that Monica has a terrible cold, but insists "I don't get sick! Getting sick is for weaklings and pansies!"
  • In the Chickenpox Episode of Full House, Stephanie ends up getting the chicken pox on the same day that a professional ballerina is coming to her dance class. She assumes a Paper-Thin Disguise to try to sneak out, only for Uncle Jesse to intercept her and send her back to bed.
  • Jejak Suara Adzan: Happens twice between Dimas and his mother Ririn as they are in different cities for most of the series so it's slightly easier to do this. Both times, they don't want to make each other worry.
    • Ririn once faints due to her heart disease. When she regains consciousness in a hospital, she phones Dimas to ask about his search for his brother and pretends as if nothing happened.
    • Later, Ririn has a feeling that something happens to Dimas and phones him. Dimas convinces his mother that he is okay, when in reality, he has a fever.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Kiriya puts on a convincing act to keep the rest of CR crew (besides Kuroto) from finding out about his Game disease. Still, it's only because of the currently ongoing apocalypse that noone figures it out sooner due to Kiriya's well-known nature as a bordeline pathological liar.
  • Parks and Recreation: In "Flu Season", Leslie refuses to admit she has the flu because she has to give an important presentation.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Whilst transporting numerous dignitaries in "Journey To Babel", Captain Kirk is hospitalised by an assassin and Spock takes over command of the Enterprise. Meanwhile, Spock's father Sarek (one of the diplomats) needs a blood transfusion, with Spock as the only viable donor. However, as the quantity needed would also put him out of action for several days, Spock's sense of duty won't allow him to relinquish command whilst the ship is still in danger. To avoid him being responsible for his father's death, Kirk fakes an early recovery to retake command. He initially plans to simply hand over control to Scotty and return to his own treatment once the operation has started, but at that moment the Enterprise is attacked, forcing Kirk to stay on the bridge during the battle in spite of his wounds.

    Video Games 
  • Minecraft: Story Mode: Petra/Gabriel (whichever one you saved in the first episode) refuses to admit they were infected by the Wither Storm, not wanting to appear weak or worry the others.
  • Far Cry 6: Anton Castillo is Secretly Dying of leukemia, but, being The Generalissimo of Yara, he wants to appear powerful when he makes a public address to his country. Prior to making the speech, we see him having make-up applied to his face and getting a blood transfusion. Upon having his Berserk Button pushed by Clara Garcia phoning him, however, Anton is so enraged that he decides to do his speech as soon as he hangs up, only for his son Diego to point out that he's pulled the transfusion tube out of his hand and now he's bleeding. Anton promptly hides his hand, with Diego's help. Towards the end of the game, as Anton's Sanity Slippage increases, he stops bothering to hide the effects of his leukemia from Dani.
  • One of the great mysteries in Batman: Arkham City is how the Joker, who injected himself with Titan at the end of the previous game and subsequently developed toxic blood poisoning, is able to appear healthy throughout Batman's encounters with him. At one point, he even fights the Dark Knight in hand-to-hand combat. As it turns out, the Joker hired Clayface to impersonate him until he could find a way to cure the Titan disease, a fact hinted at during the battle if the player enters Detective Mode and sees that the "Joker" you're currently fighting doesn't have bones.
    • The sequel, Batman: Arkham Knight pulls off a similar trick with Henry Adams. At first, it seems like he's the only one of the four people who were inadvertently given the Joker's poisoned blood to not be suffering from any ill effects, to the point where he's Batman's greatest hope for a cure. It's eventually revealed that Henry is just as sick as the others—he just hid it better to string the Dark Knight along.

    Western Animation 
  • Bob's Burgers: In "The Kids Run Away", Louise refuses to allow Dr. Yap to fill in her cavity, so she hides in Gayle's house. Bob and Linda make a deal with her; if she can spend the whole weekend with the annoyingly eccentric Gayle, she won't have to get her cavity filled in. Louise starts to feel the pain of a toothache, but she hides her discomfort and manages to last the weekend. As such, Bob and Linda trick her into eating ice cream so that she'll go to the dentist.
  • In "Caillou's Puppet Show" on Caillou, Caillou catches the flu but pretends he isn't sick because he's worried that his Mommy will keep him home from school and he'll miss the puppet show. It takes about two seconds for him to start coughing and sure enough, Mommy sends him to bed.
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog: Played with in "An Itchy Patch". Clifford's not really sick, but he has a very itchy rash on his back and refuses to go to the vet, so he tries his hardest not to scratch himself in front of Emily Elizabeth. Eventually, the jig is up when he gets caught rubbing his back on a bridge.
  • Franklin: In "Franklin Gives Advice", Snail cracks his shell during a game of soccer, but fears that if he confesses, he'll be banned from soccer. So, he tries to lie that his pain is only a cramp and covers up the wound with a bandanna, band-aids, and a glove.
  • The conflict of the Jelly Jamm episode "Musical Aurora" is that Goomo has to cover up jelly measles to avoid missing the titular aurora.
  • The Magic School Bus: In "Inside Ralphie", Ralphie has a cold. Once he's had bitter medicine, he tells Dr. Tenelli that he's already feeling better and that he can go back to school. Dr. Tenelli is not fooled and just tucks him back into bed.
  • Maryoku Yummy: In "Flip, Flop, and Float", Maryoku has Mega-mimi-itis, which makes her antennae grow and causes her to lose her balance. Since she wants to help Ooka and Fij Fij, she hides her antennae with a huge hat and claims she's recovered, only for a wish to knock it off.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016): In "Tooth or Consequences", Blossom gets a toothache after she runs off in panic at the dentist's office due to being nervous about the drill. She does her best to hide her pain, but it doesn't take long before her sisters find out about it.
  • In the Rugrats episode "All's Well That Pretends Well", Angelica has a cold, but she pretends to be healthy so she doesn't have to miss out on a Dummi Bears performance. She tries to make it look like the babies are sick by using a feather duster, but she ends up giving herself away by accidentally making herself sneeze. However, she gets to see the performance anyway when it's shown on TV.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Suds," SpongeBob is scared that Sandy will take him to the doctor for his "suds" disease, so Patrick "cures" him by plugging up all his holes. SpongeBob claims to Sandy that he's fine, but every time he sneezes, he inflates, until eventually he lets out a Sneeze of Doom that destroys the Krusty Krab and has no choice but to go to the doctor.
  • In the We Bare Bears episode "Bear Flu", Chloe has her hands full trying to take care of the sick bear brothers and despite all evidence to the contrary, the brothers keep insisting that bears don't get sick.


Video Example(s):


Caillou's Flu

In one of the least convincing attempts of this ever, Caillou tries this with his Mommy after catching the flu. But his rushed "Good, I feel good" couldn't possibly con anyone and his coughing seals the deal.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / FeigningHealthiness

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